Nonimmigrant visas are for international travelers (citizens of other countries), coming to the U.S. temporarily. The visa, placed in a passport when issued, allows the visa holder to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (airport, for example) and request permission of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer to enter the USA. A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The CBP officer determines whether or not the holder of a visa may enter the United States, the CBP officer also determines how long each person may remain in the USA.
International travelers come to the U.S. for a wide variety of reasons, including tourism, business, medical treatment and certain types of temporary work. The type of visa needed is defined by immigration law, and relates to the principal purpose of travel. For an overview of the types of nonimmigrant visas available under immigration law, please see Visa Types for Temporary Visitors webpage. The Consular Officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate will decide what kind of visa is need, when you apply.
Citizens of visa waiver countries in possession of a passport that meets all requirements, may travel to the U.S. for 90 days or less without a visa. If an applicant's passport does not meet the requirements, the projected stay is longer than 90 days, or the purpose of travel is not business or tourism, the applicant will need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa and pay all applicable fees.
Additionally, citizens of visa waiver countries must complete the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). More information can be found on the ESTA Homepage.
Applicants should not purchase an airline ticket until they have the visa in hand.